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Florida Gators (13) @ Kentucky Wildcats (22): Game Preview

For the second time this season, the Kentucky Wildcats do battle with the Florida Gators, this time in Rupp Arena.  In the last game in Gainesville, Kentucky lost when the game-winning 3-point shot from Brandon Knight clanged off the rim, and the third of Kentucky's five narrow losses on the SEC road went into the books.

Let's take a look a the season so far for both teams, as always, courtesy of

SEC standings:
W-L Splits: Kentucky Florida
Split W-L Pct W-L Pct
Rnk Team W-L Conf Home 13-0 1.0 13-3 0.812
1 Florida 22-5 11-2 Away 2-7 0.222 7-1 0.875
1 Alabama 19-8 11-2 Neutral 4-1 0.8 2-1 0.667
3 Vanderbilt 20-7 8-5 Conference 7-6 0.538 11-2 0.846
4 Kentucky 19-8 7-6 Conf Home 6-0 1.0 6-1 0.857
4 Georgia 18-9 7-6 Conf Away 1-6 0.143 5-1 0.833
4 Tennessee 17-11 7-6 Conf Neutral 0-0 - 0-0 -
7 Arkansas 17-10 6-7 Top 25 2-4 0.333 3-1 0.75
7 MState 14-13 6-7 RPI 1-50 5-5 0.5 8-1 0.889
9 Mississippi 17-11 5-8 RPI 51-100 2-2 0.5 6-1 0.857
9 South Carolina 14-12 5-8 RPI 101-150 4-1 0.8 3-3 0.5
11 LSU 11-17 3-10 RPI 151-200 3-0 1.0 1-0 1.0
12 Auburn 9-18 2-11 RPI 200+ 5-0 1.0 4-0 1.0

In many ways, the Gators are a mirror image of the Wildcats, or maybe more accurately, the Wildcats as they should have been  Florida has dropped only one SEC game on the road where Kentucky has won only one.  The Gators have lost one game at home, and have had a number of very close shaves both at home and on the road, but in an opposure of Kentucky's season, the Gators have won all but one.

Be sure to visit the SBNation Flordia Gators blog, Alligator Army, for the Gator point of view.


Florida Gators Basketball Roster

# Pos. Comments W H College
Adam Allen 14 F Out for season with knee injury 222 6-8 junior
Kenny Boynton 1 G Starter, 2nd leading scorer
183 6-2 sophomore
Cody Larson 34 F Redshirting 225 6-9 freshman
Vernon Macklin 32 F Starter, 3rd leading scorer, 2nd leading rebounder, best OR%
240 6-10 senior
Kyle McClanahan 20 G Rarely plays 185 6-1 junior
Erik Murphy 33 F Reserve
217 6-9 sophomore
Chandler Parsons 25 F Starter, 38% 3pt shooter, leading rebounder, leading asst., 39% 3-pt
215 6-9 senior
Casey Prather 24 G Minor reserve 195 6-6 freshman
Mike Rosario 3 G Transfer from Rutgers, year in residence 180 6-3 junior
Alex Tyus 23 F Starter, 3rd leading rebounder
220 6-8 senior
Erving Walker 11 G Starter, leading scorer, 39% 3pt shooter
171 5-8 junior
Scottie Wilbekin 5 G Major reserve 175 6-2 freshman
Will Yeguete 15 F Minor reserve 210 6-7 freshman
Patric Young 4 F Major reserve, 1st off the bench
225 6-9 freshman

Not much has changed since the last time Kentucky played the Gators, but Chandler Parsons has become the do-it-all player in conference, shooting 44% from three, leading the team in rebounds both total and offensive, steals, and assists.  Chandler Parsons is the key to this Florida team.


Florida:  Adam Allen is out for the season

Kentucky:  No known injuries

Four Factors Analysis

Kentucky leads the Gators in three out of the Four Factors, but only very narrowly.  The Gators are a slightly better rebounding team than the Wildcats.

Overall Analysis


  • Point Guard:  Push.  Brandon Knight is more talented and taller than Erving Walker, but Walker is more experienced and a demonstrated clutch performer.
  • Off Guard:  Push.  DeAndre Liggins is a better defender than Kenny Boynton, but Boynton is a dangerous scorer who has hit his stride lately.  Liggins has struggled with decision-making, but his energy, length, and intensity are indispensable for this Kentucky team.
  • Small Forward:  Advantage Florida.  Chandler Parsons has been incredible in conference in every aspect of the game.  He leads the team like a senior should, and is the Gators' Swiss Army knife.  Darius Miller has shown signs lately, but on paper, this is advantage Gators.
  • Power Forward:  Advantage Kentucky.  Terrence Jones may be young, but he can score and defend well enough to be worthy of player of the year consideration in the SEC.  Alex Tyus is a solid SEC power forward, but he is no Terrence Jones.
  • Center:  Push.  Amazing to say, but Josh Harrellson has been so good this year that he is one of the best pivots in the league.  So is Vernon Macklin.  Macklin is more of a scoring threat than Harrellson, but Harrellson is a much better rebounder and slightly better defender.  I can't believe I just wrote that, but it is the truth.

Everything else

I still say this Gator team is soft.  But that hasn't stopped them from winning games, and that's as much a testament to their team chemistry and excellent coaching as anything else.  Say what you want, Florida wins basketball games, and at the end of the season, that's what gets you high seeds and deep into March.

Chandler Parsons is the straw that stirs the drink in the Gator cocktail.  Parsons makes plays, and that is perhaps the highest praise that a basketball player can receive.  Parsons gets rebounds, shoots threes, defends, leads, and generally does everything that Billy Donovan could ask a player.  Considering only the SEC portion of the season, I think Parsons deserves serious consideration for MVP.  I can't imagine the Gators would be .500 in the league without him.

Kentucky must find a way to limit Parsons' effectiveness, and frankly, I have no real idea how that could be accomplished.  Parsons is too big for Miller, too strong for Liggins, and neither of them were affective against him in Gainesville.  But if you want a key to the game, Parsons is it.  If he plays well, the Wildcats are in trouble.

Erving Walker is another problem for the Wildcats.  This kid is not the greatest decision-maker, and is a volume shooter, but he is a clutch player who makes big shots for Florida.  Walker is relentless in the way he puts pressure on the defense, and he never takes a play off on offense.

But Kentucky is not without weapons, and for me, the key to this game is, as it has been all year, defensive intensity.  When this team plays with determination on defense, they are beating teams easily, regardless of matchups.  Kentucky can shoot, rebound, and execute with the best of them, particularly at home.  The combination Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, and Doron Lamb are tough to stop, and even though Kentucky lost down in Gainesville, they very easily could have won.  You'd have to think the return match slightly favors the Wildcats, if only for the significantly bigger home advantage Rupp Arena provides.

But Florida finds ways to beat teams, and that the hallmark of a division leader.  It isn't always pretty and it's never smash-mouth, but the Gators just manufacture winning plays that put W's on the record.  That's the most important, and from a Kentucky standpoint, most troubling statistic of all.




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